Trafficking Victim At Risk Of Being Re-Trafficked Not Entitled To Protection From The Home Office, Court Rules
Silvia Nicolaou Garcia
The lawyer of a missing trafficking victim has labelled today's Administrative Court judgment on the law relating to victims of trafficking 'disappointing'.
The case is that of TDT v Secretary Of State for the Home Department in which the court has ruled against the claimant.
The claimant has been anonymised to protect his identity. He is a victim of trafficking who, upon arrival to the UK, was detained by the Home Office at an Immigration
Removal Centre along with a number of other victims of trafficking.
His solicitor, Silvia Nicolaou Garcia from Simpson Millar, had previously brought unlawful detention claims on behalf of several of other victims of trafficking who had entered the UK along with the claimant. They had already gone missing – presumed to have been re-trafficked upon their release from detention. In light of this, she robustly put the Home Office on notice that there was a very high risk of the claimant being re-trafficked if he was released from the Immigration Removal Centre without adequate safeguards being put in place.
Despite firm warnings, the claimant in this case was released to a private and unverified address without any liaison with other agencies. The Judge, Mrs Justice McGowan held that the Secretary of State should have given the claimant's lawyers an opportunity to apply for an injunction to stop him being released without protective measures in place, but dismissed the claim.
This case will be disappointing to the growing number of NGOs and practitioners who have been working to highlight the growing problem of unaccompanied asylum seeking minors and trafficked children going missing from Local Authority care following release from detention.
Tara Topteagarden from the Refugee Council who acted as the claimant's Litigation Friend says: "It's extremely alarming that the court has failed to recognise a systemic failure to properly and swiftly protect child trafficking victims.""The reality is that the current procedure for recognising child trafficking victims is bureaucratic and cumbersome. Provisions to ensure those who are suspected of being child victims of trafficking are properly protected whilst further information about them is gathered are often not adhered to. That means by the time the authorities decide to act the child has often been placed in unsafe and inappropriate situations such as adult detention centres or prisons or gone missing from care and been found and re-trafficked by their exploiters.""Whenever there's a suspicion that a child has been trafficked effective safeguards need to be put in place immediately to protect them. Children's safety, not red tape, must always come first."
Silvia Nicolaou Garcia says: "This is a hugely disappointing decision from the Court and we are seeking permission to appeal it. State Bodies, including the Home Office, owe all victims and potential victims of trafficking a protective duty from harm under Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The claimant in this case and others like him should be granted the appropriate level of support and protection, and protective measures should be in place as they are released from detention, so that they do not fall immediately into the hands of their original traffickers."
The claimant is represented by Community Care & Public Law
Solicitor Silvia Nicolaou Garcia and Lara Smyth of Simpson Millar. Chris Buttler of Matrix Chambers is instructed as counsel. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the case.